Recycling giant goes bust, leaving mountains of waste
A VICTORIAN recycling giant that has gone bust with debts of $100 million was given official approval to store recycling waste in hundreds of shipping containers that remain in Adelaide.
The 381 containers have been left sitting at an industrial depot at Wingfield following the financial collapse of SKM Recycling, with the future of the yellow-bin material inside the containers remaining uncertain.
The co-mingled recycling is among tens of thousands of tonnes of unprocessed waste left in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania since SKM was declared insolvent three weeks ago over initial debts of $5.5 million.
It has now been placed into receivership with total debts of $100 million, with multiple Victorian councils and private landowners dumping thousands of tonnes of unprocessed recycling at landfills.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has been liaising with receivers KPMG about the future of the tonnes of material inside the shipping containers at Wingfield and another SKM-operated facility at Lonsdale.
Inquiries by The Advertiser have determined SKM obtained approval from Port Adelaide Enfield Council and the EPA to start storing the waste in containers at Francis Rd, Wingfield, in February last year.
The company had been trucking the waste to Melbourne for processing before a huge fire at Coolaroo in July 2017 disrupted its Victorian operations.
SKM told council and the EPA it needed to use shipping containers at Wingfield until a new processing facility approved for the site was operational.
A council report prepared in February last year recommended giving approval for almost 1100 shipping containers to be stored at Francis Rd for three months.
The report said the EPA and SKM had previously ended up in the Environment, Resources and Development Court over the storage of the recycling material - known as co-mingled waste - and where it would be processed.
"SKM received emergency authorisation in March 2017 from the Environment Protection Authority for the temporary storage of waste consisting of recoverable materials," it said.
The council report said the stockpiling of waste at Wingfield "has continued to increase due to processing and transportation issues to SKM sites within Victoria, where the baled waste has previously been sent".
"Council and the EPA have been monitoring the situation on the site as a result of the ongoing stockpiling of waste," it said.
"Discussions between the EPA and SKM within the ERD Court have led to an agreement by the EPA for the storage of waste within the shipping containers until June 30, 2018, subject to receiving development approval from council."
Council approved the application, on the grounds it was temporary storage until SKM built three new sheds for a material resources facility (MRF) to sort the kerbside waste it collected from nine Adelaide councils.
"Once the sheds are constructed, the waste will be able to be processed into streams and become products that can be on-sold to other recycling facilities."
The processing facility, however, was never built by SKM.
Instead, the shipping containers have remained at Wingfield despite the EPA issuing an environment protection notice in March ordering their removal by June 18.
The future of the baled material remains uncertain, with the dumping of recycling prohibited within SA unless the EPA grants an exemption.
Thousands of tonnes of recycling collected from Adelaide yellow bins and trucked by SKM to Victoria has been found in rented Melbourne warehouses, where it has been stored for at least two years. Most of it is destined to be dumped at landfills.